Our Gods Reigns – ‘Made to Stick’

At the recommendation of Darren Wright, I’m making my way through Chip and Dan Heaths Made To Stick, a great book about what makes some ideas ‘stick’ in our mind, and what makes others get drowned out in the ocean of information we swim in every day.  It has already given me a lot to think about interns of ministry, and is probably the most practical and inspiring book I’ve read since Simple Church.
The first of the Heath’s principals is Simplicity.
Get to the core of your idea – say one thing and say it well. If you say three things, you say nothing.  Simplicity isn’t about dumbing down – it’s about getting to the essence of what you’re trying to say – to the core and the heart of it, and doing it as briefly as possible.
As I read the chapter I kept coming back to the beauty and profound simplicity of Our God Reigns off the latest Jesus Culture release Live from New York.
This song embodies everything that the Heaths write about.  The song is a single, direct idea reduced to its essence. There’s nothing that could be further removed from the song without taking away from it.
Here’s what I love:
  1.  The simple repetitive structure of the song.  Basically it’s just ‘our God reigns / our God reigns /forever Your kingdom reigns’.   It works its way to your heart as it becomes a mantra. Jesus Culture and Martin Smith definitely aren’t the first group to come up with short simple songs, Taize has been doing it for decades, but that short repetitive phrase is what everything builds on
  2. The vowel sounds in the phrase ‘our god reigns’ are all A sounds, making them stay in almost the exact same space in your mouth. 99% of people won’t think about or notice that when they sing, but keeping the phrase in the same space creates a sense of fluidity in the sound, and the physical act of expressing the text just feels good.  If you think I’m just making all of this up to spoons smart, listen to Eric Whitacres Wade Out on YouTube. The way the W sound creates soft undulations to match the text is breathtaking. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1Hudq8VLUU]
  3. The vocal melody communicates the growing and rising of God’s Kingdom. If you listen to the melody, except for a couple of embellishments  the vocal line walks step-wise straight up. That’s it! Just a simple rising motion over and over again. Even if you don’t know a single word of English, the rising melodic line creates a sense of heightening emotion and expansiveness. It’s the perfect line to match the text of God’s Kingdom reigning – after all Jesus uses expanding and growing images to talk about the Kingdom Himself (mustard seeds and yeast).  Its also a nice bit of structural repetition to have the high point in each melodic phrase end on the word ‘Reigns’. Everything in the song moves towards God’s Reign, the melody, the text, each smaller phrase and the entirety of the text is all moving towards God’s reign.


I’m excited to read the next chapter in Made to Stick – Unexpectedness.  I’ll keep you posted.

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